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Standing on the shoulders of giants – Dr Habib Naqvi

NHS England’s Equality Lead, Dr Habib Naqvi, explains why next week’s Windrush and Diversity Celebration is so important to the NHS and society today:

The notion of a parent or grandparent arriving during the middle of the last century, with nothing but a few pounds in their pocket and a small suitcase to hand is not alien to many Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) folk in England.

Ever since the 1930s, successive governments have resolved national workforce crises through recruiting workers from overseas.

In June 1948, the merchant vessel Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks carrying 492 workers from the Caribbean. They had come to Britain to assist with post-war reconstruction. Many of the Windrush generation would go on to work in, and thus support the establishment of, the newly created NHS.

In fact, the arrival of the Windrush helped to mark a new chapter in both the birth of our NHS and the growth of multicultural Britain.

Many aspects of British society today would be unrecognisable without the contributions which immigration, and integration, has made over the generations: from our NHS to the monarchy, our language and literature, our culture and food, and even the sports teams that we cheer on a daily basis.

It was fitting that the 2012 London Olympic Games opening ceremony featured the Windrush arrival as part of its popular account of how our history has shaped us and our institutions.

It is a pleasure to announce that NHS England is holding the first major NHS Windrush Celebration event next week. This will be an opportunity to celebrate the positive contributions made by those who have come to Britain from all parts of the world and have worked in the NHS or are currently working in the NHS.

All of us, whether we are immigrants ourselves, the children and grandchildren of immigrants, or able to trace our family histories back to much earlier arrivals to Britain, have a responsibility to uphold a positive vision of an inclusive and shared society which is welcoming, just and fair to all – reminiscent of the core values that underpin our NHS Constitution.

We know that seven decades following the arrival of the Windrush, BME staff in the NHS are still more likely to be under-represented at senior levels in the NHS workforce and often have poorer experiences of the workplace environment.

This event will also provide us with the opportunity to highlight the challenges we currently face in addressing this, as well as highlighting the progress that we are making on this important agenda through NHS England’s and the NHS Equality and Diversity Council’s collective focus on the Workforce Race Equality Standard.

We must make the difference that our patients, communities and our diverse workforce need and deserve.


habib-naqvi-smallDr Habib Naqvi is the Equality Lead for NHS England.

He has a background in equality, health policy, and health psychology. He has an interest in equality and health research and is an occasional lecturer at the University of the West of England and at the University of Bristol.

More recently in his career he has led the policy work on equality at the Department of Health. He led on the Health Sector’s response to the Ministerial review of the Equality Duty.

In his current role, Habib has recently overseen the refresh of the Equality Delivery System for the NHS.

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